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Having been raised by inactive parents, both of whom came from faithful, stalwart member families, I remember little or no contact with much family in my youngest years. So, the announcement that our “grandfather” was going to visit us was a surprise. A grandfather! A big word that carried much excitement.
He was coming all the way from Salt Lake City to Dallas on a train. Even more excitement! When meeting him at the train station in Texas, this large, handsome man with a shock of white hair was introduced to us. This was a grandfather! My sister and I were definitely a bit intimidated. His actual name, Hugh B. Brown, was of no importance to my sister and I.
Knowing nothing of church leadership or the offices therein, I do not know what positions he held during my growing up years. However, when older I became aware that Hugh B. Brown was a Stake president, became an assistant to the Quorum of Twelve, later a member of the Twelve, and in the First Presidency with President David O McKay.
That memorable night we truly got to know this man with the big title and bigger stature as he let my sister and I put his hair in pin curls and paint his fingernails red – long before this was acceptable in our culture! He sat in a chair and let two little girls crawl over and around him while learning family relationships are such fun.
The summer of my 8th birthday my grandparents invited us to Utah. My grandfather – now “Boppy” to my sister and I – baptized me and changed my life. I don’t remember being interviewed, but then I knew nothing of church policy or that he was Granite stake president and had the needed authority. My memories include walking into the font with Boppy and the next day hearing my grandmother bear testimony on Sunday after I had been confirmed by my uncle, Charles Manley Brown. The whole experience was imprinted on my 8-year-old mind. Also, on that visit my grandmother – my Nana – told me Book of Mormon stories. I have no recollection of which stories, but I knew – KNEW – that she believed them.
Returning to Texas I went to every church I could find. Went with friends to the Catholic church, the Christian Science Church and others. Riding my bicycle, I went to the Baptist Church and absolutely loved their youth group. Learned much at Vacation Bible Schools each summer. (I suspect my grandparents sent the sister missionaries who held a generic “Primary” in our home for a while.) My mother thought she had a religious fanatic on her hands.
Everywhere I asked questions of church pastors, teachers, etc. – Why did God put us on earth? What does he want us to do? What happens when we die? – and was always told, “these are the mysteries of Heaven and we don’t delve into the mysteries”.
What, I now ask myself, was the reason for my curiosity?
One Sunday, when I was about ten, the minister was pounding on the pulpit saying, “Come to the front and accept Jesus. Come and be saved. Get to know Jesus Christ.” I thought: I want to know Jesus. So, despite my pounding heart I gathered all my courage and forcibly walked my young, skinny legs to the front. What disappointment! All I felt was a hollowness. I had expected more. However, I’m glad to remember that little girl’s spirit within still seeking.
Looking back, I have NO doubt that the prayers of my grandparents were guiding and protecting me. They knew what knowledge was available when I had not a clue. However, I had heard my Nana pray while in her home and knew it was very individual and caring. She talked to God as if he were right there.
My mother, who years later allowed herself to learn of the great love of her family for her, kept from them the addictive use of alcohol and other detrimental influences in our home. However, the faith and prayers of my grandparents, I am sure, gave us safety and a spiritual security we were unaware of except upon reflection.
When I was 13, my parents divorced and mother moved us to California to be near her sister. I went to the LDS church with my cousins, asked my questions, and found answers! The church of my heritage provided not only answers, but specific answers which prompted more questions and greater understanding. A new world – astonishingly – had opened to me. Puzzle pieces fell into place.
Not having the many lovely family experiences my cousins enjoyed with our grandparents while growing up, did NOT hinder me from feeling their love and their faith. Each encounter with them was memorable. Their goodness was comforting, their sense of humor inclusive, their loving awareness of me was so joyful. The choices they made throughout their lives became a gift to me that healed the examples during my youth.
Today Facetime and other tech helps are available to maintain contact, but never underestimate the power of your prayers and your examples. Children have an innate desire to connect with family and with a Heavenly Father. Trust in God’s power and keep those prayers going for your loved ones. Gratitude to my grandparents and aunts and uncles on both sides for their faith and prayers in my behalf is beyond my ability to express. Those prayers, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit opened the blessings of eternity to me. The same can be true for your loved ones.